A Lifetime Senior Pass for Natureʼs Finest Work

Tracey Columns

Having logged 2,600 miles on our recent road trip, there was one more thing I wanted to share with you … the countless benefits of the “Senior Pass” offered by the National Park Service. Who says being older doesn’t have its rewards?

When my husband and I arrived at Death Valley, truly some of Mother Nature’s best work that we were happy to be revisiting, the ranger on duty respectfully asked if either of us might be eligible for the National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands, Senior Pass. Actually, he looked at my husband and asked him that question. (While I had a brief moment of “ha, I don’t look old enough to qualify,” it may have been more likely that the poor ranger had had too many women freak out at him over the very same question. Just a thought.)

My husband turned 62 last month, and yes, neither of us can quite believe it. But here he was, about to benefit from those magic numbers. We asked for more information on the Senior Pass and after what we heard, forking over the required $10 was a no brainer.

According to the National Park Service web site, the Senior Pass is a “your ticket to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites. Each pass covers entrance fees at national parks and national wildlife refuges as well as standard amenity fees at national forests and grasslands, and at lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management and Bureau of Reclamation. ” And get this, it’s good for everyone in the car, not just the individual who holds the pass. The deal became even sweeter when the ranger explained that the pass also included discounts on some “Expanded Amenity Fees, such as camping, boat launching, and guided tours.”

Admittedly, the magnitude of what we had just purchased didn’t really hit us then and there. (I think it’s because were were still in shock over what it had cost to fill up the gas tank a few minutes before.) No, we thanked the kind civil servant and headed on down the road, happy to have reached our strikingly beautiful destination.

Completely ignored, the pass sat in my husband’s wallet until we rolled into the Grand Canyon a few days later. At the entrance, we were asked if we had any passes. By simply showing the Senior Pass and proper identification, we were given helpful maps and information packets and welcomed into one of the wonders of the world. What did that translate to financially? Twenty-five dollars stayed put in our pocket.

It was at this moment that the deal finally began to set in; we had just been ushered into one of the most exquisite works of nature by the mere wave of a card. And we could do this again and again, at over 2,000 locations for as long as we could manage to get ourselves around. Now, that’s what I call a bargain.

Using this pass is going to take some getting used to. (What a problem to have, right?) We made a stop at the “other worldly” Mono Lake on our way home. This highly saline concentrated body of water is home to a rich history, brine shrimp, bird life, and the tufa towers, odd formations at the water’s edge resulting from the combination of minerals. The entrance fee was very reasonable, $3 each but as I read the form, I realized that, once again, our Senior Pass would cover it.

Ultimately, the Senior Pass saved us well over $100 this trip. Curious about what this little card could do, I did some sleuthing about National Parks we might like to eventually visit and found: the Channel Islands, in California; Denali,
in Alaska; the Everglades in Florida; the Grand Tetons, in Montana; even St. John Island, in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Yep, just back from one adventure and I’m already itching to go again.

My thanks to whomever it was who decided we Seniors should receive the many benefits of the Senior Pass. The wisdom of this decision is fully appreciated by the two older explorers in this house.

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